Best Digital Resources Offered by Chicago-Area Libraries

Even when you can’t enter the building, your library is shelved full of free resources. Online story times? Got ’em. Access to books? Got ’em. Language resources? Got ’em.

Puppets on demand? Ehhh, maybe you’ll have to wait for those.

First, you’ll want to make sure you’re following your local library on social media. Story hours, book discussions and even craft times can be found there, as well as updated materials, reopening dates, information about the Census, everything libraries are known for. 

Then, visit your library’s website. If you don’t have a card, you can still register digitally to make sure you have access to all the online resources. You’ll need a card for things like free access to magazines and newspapers and to check out e-books.

Here are some of our favorite digital resources from libraries around Chicagoland.

Chicago Public Library

Preschool-Late Elementary
Middle School-High School
  • Digital access to historical Chicago collections, Chicago Tribune historical archives as well as access to public archives across the country.
  • Online tutoring in writing assignments, Spanish language courses and English as a second language classes. 
  • Research and access to science, health, math, history and geography articles and texts.
  • Stream videos, movies and TV shows on demand. 
  • Borrow e-books, music and movies via Hoopla.
  • Find archives of Chicago newspapers: Sun-Times, Tribune and Defender. Also, daily digital access to newspapers in the area and across the globe.
  • Creating an invention while stuck inside? Check the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office first, then file your own.
  • Information from about health, benefits and jobs from more than 100 government agencies.


SWAN Libraries

The SWAN Library system includes libraries in the north, south and western suburbs of Chicago. There are 97 libraries within SWAN (which stands for System Wide Automated Network) and all libraries within the system regularly interloan books, movies, music and other content. 

Preschool-Late Elementary
  • All card holders can try more than 400 pages of printable worksheets for Kindergartners (and preschoolers who insist they’re ready for Kindergarten).
  • SWAN libraries give access to TumbleBookLibrary, which has thousands of books that help kids learn to read (talking along with the book), includes comics and are instantly available through the internet, avoiding downloads and wait times. Also, try TumbleMath for kids in K-6th grade. 
Middle School-High School
  • Online tutoring for homework or questions parents just can’t answer.
  • Find the right streaming system to access concerts, music, movies, videos and, of course, e-books.
  • NASA has opened its collection of images and made them searchable online.
  • Libby is an app that allows you to borrow e-books and download them to your various devices (Kindle, Phone, iPad, etc.). SWAN card holders can also borrow audiobooks. Like regular book borrowing, the books will disappear after the due date (without late fees).  
  • Search the SWAN system to find downloadable books in formats including HTML for your computer.
  • Enjoy unlimited access to TumbleBooks through August.
  • Checkout limits on Hoopla have doubled, allowing more access to comics, movies, TV shows, music, and, wait for it, e-books and audiobooks. 
  • Take the time indoors to research your genealogy.

North/Northwest Suburbs

Here are our favorite digital resources from libraries in the Northern Suburbs:

South Suburbs

Here are our favorite digital resources from libraries in the South Suburbs:

Western Suburbs

Here are our favorite digital resources from libraries in the Western Suburbs:

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